UN Security Council urges Sudan’s warring parties to halt hostilities during holy month of Ramadan

A man walks while smoke rises above buildings after aerial bombardment, during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 1, 2023. (REUTERS)
A man walks while smoke rises above buildings after aerial bombardment, during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 1, 2023. (REUTERS)
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Updated 09 March 2024
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UN Security Council urges Sudan’s warring parties to halt hostilities during holy month of Ramadan

UN Security Council urges Sudan’s warring parties to halt hostilities during holy month of Ramadan
  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged both sides on Thursday to support a Ramadan ceasefire, warning that the nearly year-long conflict threatens the country’s unity and “could ignite regional instability of dramatic proportions”

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council urged Sudan’s warring parties on Friday to immediately halt hostilities during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and allow aid to get to 25 million people in desperate need of food and other assistance.
Ramadan is expected to begin on or around Monday, depending on the sighting of the crescent moon.
The 15-member council voted overwhelmingly in favor of the British-drafted resolution, with 14 countries in support and only Russia abstaining.
Sudan plunged into chaos in April, when long-simmering tensions between its military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo broke out into street battles in the capital, Khartoum.

BACKGROUND

Britain’s deputy UN ambassador James Kariuki urged the Sudanese armed forces and Rapid Support Forces ‘to act on this united international call for peace and to silence the guns.’

Fighting spread to other parts of the country, especially urban areas, but in Sudan’s western Darfur region it took on a different form, with brutal attacks by the Arab-dominated Rapid Support Forces on ethnic African civilians. Thousands of people have been killed.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged both sides on Thursday to support a Ramadan ceasefire, warning that the nearly year-long conflict threatens the country’s unity and “could ignite regional instability of dramatic proportions.” The African Union also backed a halt to fighting during Ramadan.
Burhan welcomed the UN chief’s appeal, but the Sudanese Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Friday listing a number of conditions for a ceasefire to be effective. The Rapid Support Forces have not responded.
The resolution expresses “grave concern over the spreading violence and the catastrophic and deteriorating humanitarian situation, including crisis levels, or worse, of acute food insecurity, particularly in Darfur.”
Britain’s deputy UN ambassador James Kariuki urged the Sudanese armed forces and Rapid Support Forces “to act on this united international call for peace and to silence the guns.”
The Security Council urged the warring parties “to seek a sustainable resolution to the conflict through dialogue,” and Kariuki called on the two sides to work to restore peace.
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Anna Evstigneeva accused the Security Council of “double standards” – calling for a ceasefire in Sudan and “dragging out” adoption of a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, pointing to US vetoes of a ceasefire resolution and calling this “hypocrisy.”
She claimed most elements in Friday’s resolution are already being done, stressing that ending the violence shouldn’t just be the aim of the Security Council “but most importantly of the Sudanese people themselves.” Nonetheless, Russia decided to let the resolution through “because it is a question of the lives of the Sudanese people who are suffering across the country from the consequences of the conflict,” she said.
According to the UN humanitarian office, 8.3 million people have been forcibly displaced by fighting between government and paramilitary forces, half of the country’s 51 million people need aid, and 70 percent to 80 percent of health facilities aren’t functioning.
UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said if a Ramadan ceasefire is observed by both sides, “I can assure you we’ll be piling in the aid and repositioning, repairing institutions, getting children out to safety and so forth.”
The number of Sudanese who are hungry and “food insecure” has increased by 10 million since last year because of the conflict, he said, warning of moves toward famine because of “disinterest” in the Sudan conflict by the rest of the world.
Griffiths told a group of reporters Friday that he has personally been trying to get the rival commanders together in person or virtually to agree on access for humanitarian aid and workers, so far unsuccessfully.
“What we need is a political process,” he said, stressing that instability in Sudan has an impact beyond its borders because of its strategic location.
The impact has been seen in neighboring Chad, which is hosting over 550,000 Sudanese refugees mainly from neighboring Darfur as well as the Central African Republic and westward through Africa to the Sahel, Griffiths said. In addition, Sudan borders the Red Sea where Yemen’s Houthi rebels are attacking ships to try to spur a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.
Griffiths said the $2.7 billion UN humanitarian appeal for Sudan this year is just 4 percent funded and urged donors to respond urgently.
He welcomed France’s announcement last month that it will hold a ministerial meeting in mid-April to help Sudan and its neighbors deal with the humanitarian consequences of the conflict.
Addressing the Security Council on Thursday, secretary-general Guterres pointed to renewed offensives and growing fears of a further expansion of hostilities in eastern Sudan, calls for arming civilians in various states, and armed groups entering the fighting in western Darfur and South Kordofan.
But Sudan’s Foreign Ministry on Friday set conditions for a ceasefire, saying the RSF should withdraw from all provinces they have taken control of since the conflict erupted, return all “looted” public and private property and stop human rights violations including “atrocities” their fighters have committed especially in Darfur.
In blaming the RSF for the ongoing conflict, the ministry said, “We are certain that the terrorist militia that launched a war against the state and the people in Ramadan last year has no moral, religious or national obligations that would make it respect the sanctity of the holy month.”
Two decades ago, Sudan’s vast western Darfur region became synonymous with genocide and war crimes, particularly by the notorious Janjaweed Arab militias against populations that identify as Central or East African.
The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor, Karim Khan, said in late January there are grounds to believe both sides in the current conflict are committing possible war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in Darfur.

 


How cockroaches spread around the globe to become the pest we know today

How cockroaches spread around the globe to become the pest we know today
Updated 7 sec ago
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How cockroaches spread around the globe to become the pest we know today

How cockroaches spread around the globe to become the pest we know today
  • Study confirms German cockroach species found worldwide actually originated in southeast Asia
  • Cockroaches may have stowed away with people to travel to Middle East, Europe, says study

DALLAS: They’re six-legged, hairy home invaders that just won’t die, no matter how hard you try.

Cockroaches are experts at surviving indoors, hiding in kitchen pipes or musty drawers. But they didn’t start out that way.

A new study uses genetics to chart cockroaches’ spread across the globe, from humble beginnings in southeast Asia to Europe and beyond. The findings span thousands of years of cockroach history and suggest the pests may have scuttled across the globe by hitching a ride with another species: people.

“It’s not just an insect story,” said Stephen Richards, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine who studies insect genes and was not involved with the study. “It’s an insect and humanity story.”

Researchers analyzed the genes of over 280 cockroaches from 17 countries and six continents. They confirmed that the German cockroach — a species found worldwide — actually originated in southeast Asia, likely evolving from the Asian cockroach around 2,100 years ago. Scientists have long suspected the German cockroach’s Asian origins since similar species still live there.

The research was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The cockroaches then globe-trotted via two major routes. They traveled west to the Middle East about 1,200 years ago, perhaps hitchhiking in soldiers’ breadbaskets. And they may have stowed away on Dutch and British East India Company trade routes to get to Europe about 270 years ago, according to scientists’ reconstruction and historical records.

Once they arrived, inventions like the steam engine and indoor plumbing likely helped the insects travel further and get cozy living indoors, where they are most commonly found today.

Researchers said exploring how cockroaches conquered past environments may lead to better pest control.

Modern-day cockroaches are tough to keep at bay because they evolve quickly to resist pesticides, according to study author Qian Tang, a postdoctoral researcher studying insects at Harvard University.
 


9 Egyptians go on trial in Greece over deadly shipwreck, as rights groups question process

9 Egyptians go on trial in Greece over deadly shipwreck, as rights groups question process
Updated 4 min 52 sec ago
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9 Egyptians go on trial in Greece over deadly shipwreck, as rights groups question process

9 Egyptians go on trial in Greece over deadly shipwreck, as rights groups question process
  • International human rights groups argue the defendants’ right to a fair trial is being compromised as they face judgment before an investigation is concluded
KALAMATA: Nine Egyptian men go on trial in southern Greece on Tuesday, accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants and sent shockwaves through the European Union’s border protection and asylum operations.
The defendants, most in their 20s, face up to life in prison if convicted on multiple criminal charges over the sinking of the “Adriana” fishing trawler on June 14 last year.
International human rights groups argue that their right to a fair trial is being compromised as they face judgment before an investigation is concluded into claims the Greek coast guard may have botched the rescue attempt.
More than 500 people are believed to have gone down with the fishing trawler, which had been traveling from Libya to Italy. Following the sinking, 104 people were rescued — mostly migrants from Syria, Pakistan and Egypt — and 82 bodies were recovered.
Early Tuesday, police in riot gear clashed with members of a small group of protesters gathered in front of the courthouse and detained two people.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has described the shipwreck off the southern coast of Greece as “horrific.”
The sinking renewed pressure on European governments to protect the lives of migrants and asylum seekers trying to reach the continent, as the annual number of people traveling illegally across the Mediterranean continues to rise.
Lawyers from Greek human rights groups are representing the nine Egyptians, who deny the smuggling charges.
“There’s a real risk that these nine survivors could be found ‘guilty’ on the basis of incomplete and questionable evidence given that the official investigation into the role of the coast guard has not yet been completed,” said Judith Sunderland, an associate director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch.
Authorities say the defendants were identified by other survivors and the indictments are based on their testimonies.
The European border protection agency Frontex says illegal border detections at EU frontiers increased for three consecutive years through 2023, reaching the highest level since the 2015-2016 migration crisis — driven largely by arrivals at the sea borders.

France begins its first war crime trial of Syrian officials

France begins its first war crime trial of Syrian officials
Updated 11 min 22 sec ago
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France begins its first war crime trial of Syrian officials

France begins its first war crime trial of Syrian officials
  • The Paris Criminal Court will try the three officials for their role in the deaths of two French Syrian men

PARIS: The first trial in France of officials of the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad is to begin on Tuesday, with three top security officers to be tried in absentia for complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The Paris Criminal Court will try the three officials for their role in the deaths of two French Syrian men, Mazzen Dabbagh and his son Patrick, arrested in Damascus in 2013.
“For the first time, French courts will address the crimes of the Syrian authorities, and will try the most senior members of the authorities to ever be prosecuted since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in March 2011,” said the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
The war between Assad’s regime and armed opposition groups, including Daesh, erupted after the government repressed peaceful pro-democracy protests in 2011.
The conflict has killed more than half a million people, displaced millions, and ravaged Syria’s economy and infrastructure.
Trials into the abuses of the Syrian regime have taken place elsewhere in Europe, notably in Germany.
But in those cases, the people prosecuted held lower ranks and were present at the hearings.
Ali Mamlouk, former head of the National Security Bureau, Jamil Hassan, former director of the Air Force intelligence service, and Abdel Salam Mahmoud, former head of investigations for the service in Damascus, are subject to international arrest warrants and will be tried in absentia.
Scheduled to last four days, the hearings will be filmed.
War crimes
At the time of the arrest, Patrick Dabbagh was a 20-year-old student in his second year of arts and humanities at the University of Damascus. His father Mazzen worked as a senior education adviser at the French high school in Damascus.
The two were arrested in November 2013 by officers who claimed to belong to the Syrian Air Force intelligence service.
“Witness testimony confirms that Mazzen and Patrick Abdelkader were both taken to a detention center at Mezzeh Military Airport, which is run by Syrian Air Force Intelligence and notorious for the use of brutal torture,” the International Federation for Human Rights said, stressing that the pair were not involved in protests against the Assad regime.
They were declared dead in 2018. The family was formally notified that Patrick died on 21 January 2014. His father Mazzen died nearly four years later, on 25 November 2017.
In the committal order, the investigating judges said that it was “sufficiently established” that the two men “like thousands of detainees of the Air Force intelligence suffered torture of such intensity that they died.”
During the probe, French investigators and the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA), a non-governmental organization, collected accounts of torture and mistreatment at the Mezzeh prison, including the use of electric shocks and sexual violence, from dozens of witnesses including former detainees.
Lawyer Clemence Bectarte, who represents the Dabbagh family and the International Federation for Human Rights, said the trial was a new reminder that “under no circumstances” should relations with the Assad regime be normalized.
“We tend to forget that the regime’s crimes are still being committed today,” she said.


France backs ICC after prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Israel’s Netanyahu

France backs ICC after prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Israel’s Netanyahu
Updated 28 min 6 sec ago
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France backs ICC after prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Israel’s Netanyahu

France backs ICC after prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Israel’s Netanyahu
  • If such warrants are issued, members of the court, could be put in a diplomatically difficult position

PARIS: France backs the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the ‘fight against impunity’, its foreign ministry said after the court’s prosecutor sought an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others for alleged war crimes.
On Monday, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said he had requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu, his defense chief Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders, including its chief, Yahya Sinwar.
If such warrants are issued, however, members of the court, which includes nearly all countries of the European Union, could be put in a diplomatically difficult position.
“France supports the International Criminal Court, its independence and the fight against impunity in all situations,” the foreign ministry said in a statement late on Monday.
While US President Joe Biden called the legal step against Israeli officials “outrageous,” the French foreign ministry took a different stance.
It reiterated both its condemnation of Hamas’s ‘anti-Semitic massacres’ on Oct. 7 as well as its warnings over possible violations of international humanitarian law by Israel’s invasion of the Gaza strip.
“As far as Israel is concerned, it will be up to the court’s pre-trial chamber to decide whether to issue these warrants, after examining the evidence put forward by the prosecutor ... ,” the ministry said.


Protest at Greek parliament before trial of shipwreck that killed several migrants, including Pakistanis

Protest at Greek parliament before trial of shipwreck that killed several migrants, including Pakistanis
Updated 21 May 2024
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Protest at Greek parliament before trial of shipwreck that killed several migrants, including Pakistanis

Protest at Greek parliament before trial of shipwreck that killed several migrants, including Pakistanis
  • Adriana fishing trawler sank off a Greek coast in June 2023 carrying hundreds of migrants from Pakistan, Syria and Egypt
  • Protest held in support of nine Egyptian survivors on board migrant boat who are charged with causing incident, human smuggling

Dozens gathered outside the Greek parliament on Monday (May 20) for a protest ahead of the trial of nine Egyptian men facing smuggling charges in connection with the migrant shipwreck last year.

On June 14, 2023, the Adriana fishing trawler, carrying between 500 and 700 migrants from Pakistan, Syria and Egypt sank off the southern town of Pylos, in international waters, on its way from Libya to Italy. Some 104 men survived and only 82 bodies have been recovered.

The protest was held in support of the nine Egyptian survivors who were on board the migrant boat and who have been charged with causing the incident, participating in a criminal organization, and migrant smuggling.

They have denied any wrongdoing.

The circumstances of the sinking of the Adriana in June remain a source of dispute between the Greek authorities and groups supporting the rights of survivors and migrants — meaning the trial could be the first opportunity to officially hear the accounts of some of those present at the time.

Survivors have accused the Greek coast guard of capsizing the boat. The authorities, which monitored Adriana for hours, say it overturned when a coast guard vessel was about 70 meters away. The coast guard service has denied any wrongdoing.

It remains unclear what happened in the time between the coast guard being alerted to the presence of the vessel and when it capsized.